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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Beachside bliss at Bannisters, Port Stephens in NSW, Australia

Followers of chef Rick Stein, seafood lovers and people trying to find the proper beachside weekend getaway, it’s time to pack your luggage.

A two-and-a-half hours north of Sydney, on the East Coast of Australia, is the attractive seaside vacation spot of Port Stephens – over 30km of white, sandy seashores, pristine waters, fabulous nationwide parks, gorgeous sand dunes, coastal walks and tiny cities, all wrapped up in a terrifically laidback way of life.  26 gorgeous seashores and an impressive bay, the native space is a blue water paradise.  World-class surf breaks, scuba diving with gray nurse sharks, swimming with wild dolphins, snorkelling in quiet bays, sightseeing cruises, jet boat pleasure rides, and quad bike excursions – Port Stephens is all about family-friendly enjoyable. However for many who love to do completely nothing on vacation, and do it in fashion, then Bannisters Port Stephens is the proper vacation spot!

Port Stephens shouldn’t be a city in its personal proper, however reasonably a set of relaxed coastal neighbourhoods, every providing one thing a bit of totally different, together with Nelson Bay, Anna Bay, Shoal Bay, Fingal Bay, and my private favorite Troopers Level, a picturesque peninsula and sleepy bayside hamlet on the southern shores of Port Stephens,

In 1826 a small garrison of troopers was established at Friendship Level to seize escaped convicts. The garrison was later deserted and Friendship Level was renamed Troopers Level. It’s now often called the perfect spot for sunsets in Port Stephens, with gorgeous waterways, secure swimming seashores and an award-winning marina that draws yachts from across the globe.

Household holidays to Troopers Level started once I was very younger. Packed into the again of the automotive, with my youthful sister and two very bushy spaniels, it appeared like an limitless journey and I might inevitably get car-sick someplace en route. My sister and I might struggle over the armrest and my mother and father would shout to us to cease bickering. We have been sizzling and sticky, we have been drained and irritable. These are the issues childhood recollections are made from!

However as soon as we arrived all that was forgotten right away, swept away within the pleasure of being on vacation in our favorite place! We’d spend the summer season in an antiquated wood home, with a wrap-around verandah, in true previous Australian colonial constructing fashion. We drew straws for who’d get the privilege of sleeping out within the tiny screened-in part of the verandah that served as an additional bed room. The entrance steps of the home led straight to the seashore, and we’d disappear down onto the sand for hours at a time, solely returning because it bought darkish. Parental supervision was minimal, this was a long time earlier than ‘helicopter parenting’ existed. We shaped ‘gangs’ with different children on the seashore, and spent hours collectively looking for shells and looking out in rock swimming pools. Saturday afternoon we got 20 cents to spend on the native store and would spend an age deciding which of the sweets to spend the cash on, rising hours later with a small paper bag with our ‘blended lollies’. Saturday nights there was all the time a film on on the group centre and practically the entire city would flip as much as watch it, it doesn’t matter what was exhibiting. We watched pelicans fishing with their outsized beaks and discovered to fish ourselves. We hand-fed the colorful rainbow lorikeets that landed on the verandah each time somebody went exterior. We swam and made sandcastles, adorned with shells, seaweed and driftwood. Household barbeques have been an nearly day by day ritual and somebody, normally me, would inevitably lose a sausage to a artful kookaburra that had swooped in simply because the sausage was on its approach to my mouth! These have been a few of my happiest days. However I grew up, moved away, moved on, moved abroad, and left these summers at Troopers Level behind.

Now, 40 years later, I used to be returning. Having lived in Zambia for nicely over 30 years, I used to be making certainly one of my rare visits again to Australia to see my mother and father. Time was quick, however I used to be decided to revisit the Troopers Level of my childhood. I hopped within the automotive and headed up the highway, and down reminiscence lane.

The previous winding, car-sick-making, freeway was gone, as an alternative, a three-lane expressway sped me alongside, sooner than I used to be ready for. I missed my turnoff and spent a while ‘discovering myself’ within the streets of Newcastle, earlier than a pleasant bystander bought me again on monitor. Pulling into Troopers Level I used to be pleasantly shocked to see some issues hadn’t modified. Some issues although have been unrecognisable. The group centre was nonetheless standing, although no Saturday night time movies appeared to be marketed. The nook retailer with the sweets was not. The wharf the place I’d learnt to fish was nonetheless intact, however the home with its wrap-around verandah was gone. What was additionally the identical, however totally different, was the previous Salamander. The as soon as down-at-heel, sixties motel, Salamander Shores, had by no means appeared so good in my youth. But it surely was the Salamander not. Reworked, many tens of millions of {dollars} later, right into a four-star luxe retreat for foodies, Bannisters effortlessly captures the coastal attraction of Port Stephens, completely packaged into a contemporary lodge, and this was the place I might be spending my weekend.

Bannisters Port Stephens opened in late 2018. That is the second location for the Bannisters group, which started in 2002 when media entrepreneur Peter Cosgrove renovated a seventies motel at Mollymook, a tiny city on the coast, three hours south of Sydney. However Bannisters by the Sea by no means actually took off till Cosgrove welcomed in Rick Stein, who began his first restaurant exterior of the UK right here in 2009. Rick Stein’s in Mollymook has since turn out to be an extremely standard restaurant for Sydneysiders, Canberrans and Worldwide guests alike, all desirous to bask in some fantastic seafood and absorb the slowed-place south coast life.

Beginning his profession in 1975 with The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall UK, Rick Stein has made a profession out of traversing the world and discovering a few of its most scrumptious areas. He’s written over 20 cookbooks, made greater than 30 cookery exhibits, and he’s now one of many world’s most well-respected cooks, with a status for serving solely the best fish and shellfish – unimaginable seafood merely ready. After the success at Mollymook, and eager to broaden their footprint in Australia, Rick, his spouse Sarah and Peter Cosgrove turned their hand to Bannisters Port Stephens.

Located cliffside, the lodge is grand in scale however boutique in vibe. A glowing makeover infused with design parts like flooring to ceiling glass, trademark whites and breezy blue tones, timber accents and loads of greenery; by some means respiration new life into the house while retaining the character of its former Salamander days. Canines and youngsters are welcome, there are even pet-friendly rooms. The workers are tremendous pleasant, and by some means have the knack of managing to make good service completely drama-free. An infinity pool appears to be like down over the identical public jetty the place I’d as soon as discovered to fish, and the place affected person fathers and excited children nonetheless dangle their fishing strains. The lodge options 80 rooms, together with 4 luxurious suites and a penthouse, that each one include both water or bushland views. There are a few totally different choices on the subject of eating – a cavernous bar downstairs referred to as the Cheeky Canine, good for pizza, pool and watching sports activities on the large TV screens and Julio’s Mexican Cantina, with bay views, Mexican meals and margaritas. However, by far the perfect, unquestionably, is Rick Stein’s, a fantastic eating restaurant, however with a relaxed, vacation really feel.

When movie star chef Rick Stein takes the helm, you understand you’re in good palms, add revolutionary Head Chef Mitchell Turner, whose ardour for cooking started from a younger age, and the ensuing menu shines a highlight on the perfect of the area’s seafood. The standard of native seafood and proximity to the Hunter Valley and its wines offered Stein on the situation for the restaurant. King prawns, sand whiting, snapper and blue trevally star, whereas Sydney rock oysters are sourced from native growers a mere 600 metres away. You’ll be able to’t get extra native than that.

Port Stephens is dwelling to among the greatest seafood on the east coast of Australia and the menu displays this. It begins with a choice of recent seafood – suppose grilled scallops and freshly shucked oysters. Comply with that with an entrée of sashimi of native yellowfin tuna or maybe native lobster and dirt crab linguine. For most important course, I went with the wonderful Sri Lankan native swordfish curry, while my son opted to go away the seafood and go for a Tasmanian wagyu rump steak. Desserts are decadently wealthy, mine being a divine chocolate fondant. No matter you select, the components are freshly caught or sourced and fantastically ready, and when mixed with a wide-ranging wine record to enrich each course, you actually can’t go mistaken.

Early the following morning the rising solar solar is shining by way of the gum bushes and glistening on the water within the calm, clear bay that stretches out in the direction of the distant Yaccaba and Tomaree headlands. A pre-breakfast stroll all the way down to the wharf and alongside the seashore, it doesn’t get far more excellent than this. Port Stephens is a magical coastal vacation spot, the place you’ll be able to change off, get swept up within the pure environment and take a break from the day by day grind. 

Sarah Kingdom

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, earlier than transferring to Africa on the age of 21, Sarah Kingdom is a mountain climber and information, journey author, yoga trainer, path runner, and mom of two. When she shouldn’t be climbing or touring she lives on a cattle ranch in central Zambia. She guides journeys frequently in India, Nepal, Tibet, Russia, and Ethiopia, and takes climbers up Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro quite a few occasions a 12 months.

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